Voice of a Researcher

Hear from our researchers about the type of research activities they participate in, and reasons why they work at the Computational Biology Research Center.

Invited Senior Research Scientist
Born in 1967, Oita.
Received Ph.D. at Faculty of Science, Kyoto University Graduate School of Science
After I finished learning all I needed to in the US, I wanted to come back to Japan and make a contribution here.
®° Please explain how you came to join the CBRC.

Since graduate school, I have felt that my lifelong research theme should be gene expression analysis, and I have continued my research in this area. However, the main center of research in this field (bioinformatics) is found in the US, and not in Japan. I'm speaking of the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), located in the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, USA. I had been thinking that I would like to do research there someday when I was lucky enough to receive an invitation. I immediately left for the US, and in 1999 I began my research activities at the NCBI. After three years of research activities as a post-doctoral fellowship, I continued my gene expression analysis research as a federal government employee.

However, as I continued my research, I couldn't suppress the feeling that I wanted to bring my experiences back and contribute something to Japan, and so I returned home in 2003. When I got back, I consulted with former CBRC Director Akiyama who had previously made me an offer, and after receiving a prompt response, I decided to join the CBRC. So now, I get to carry out my research activities everyday at a research laboratory directly under the Japanese government's control. (Laughs)

The biggest advantage is being able to do the research you want to do. It can be pretty tough though. (Laughs)
®° What do you feel are the benefits of conducting research activities at the CBRC?

There are a number of benefits you receive by joining this Center. The biggest of these is that you are able to freely choose the type of research you wish to tackle. Of course, this doesn't mean that you can just do whatever you like for however long you like. Naturally, there are limits in place concerning research periods, and these can feel quite strict. However the degree of freedom afforded to you by being able to pursue research themes you like is very significant. I feel that this is the biggest attraction of working at the CBRC.

Since joining the CBRC, I have continued on with my lifelong goal of researching the theme of gene expression analysis. Although the specific approaches and methods I've employed at the NCBI (development of a database for gene expression data) and at the CBRC (development of cellular search and discrimination methods from gene expression data) are different, I have been able to keep doing research I'm interested in.

We have a broad variety of people here, so research progresses quickly.
®° In terms of research achievements, how do you find working at the CBRC? What sort of progress have you been able to make?

Achievements are things that develop gradually - I think that this is true of any field. In my field of research, too, I'm slowly starting to see tangible results developing. I'm slowly, slowly making my contribution to Japan. (Laughs)

I believe that the CBRC is probably the most important multidisciplinary research institution in Japan. It's a location where many people from many different fields, such as mathematics/physics, and medicinal backgrounds, gather to move forward with research. As there are people from a broad range of fields working here, a second benefit is generated: If you have queries about something, you can ask someone. When you're researching in a limited domain, you sometimes are unable to solve problems that you have that relate to other fields. But at the CBRC, there is usually a specialist in the field that can help you, and you can quickly enquire about things you wish to ask about. This is a major benefit of working here. By conducting your research via cooperation with many other researchers, and gaining interdisciplinary knowledge, your research will often progress very quickly.

You can probably get by these days without having to go all the way over to the US. (Laughs)
®° Are there any differences between the CBRC, and the NCBI, a main center for research, in terms of conducting research activities?

Well, the NCBI and the CBRC are the same in that they are both places many experts from different disciplines gather. In both places, if you have research-based queries you can ask someone about them immediately, or find out who is the best person to talk to°ńin these terms, the two organizations are not different. In terms of personnel, they rank fairly similarly.

However, if you are talking about vital physical resources needed for the advancement of research, then the CBRC is definitely much better. This is the third big advantage of working at the CBRC. The power of the computers used to carry out data analysis is quite different. The CBRC uses high-performance computers, which is particularly helpful. The booths allotted to each researcher are also quite spacious, enabling you to have lots of resources and documents close at hand while you conduct your research. It's probably just a small thing, but having this physical space also helps you to feel less stressed. In these terms, the CBRC has been better than the NCBI in a number of ways. I'd even go so far to say that as a Japanese person, the CBRC should probably be your first candidate as a place for research, over NCBI. I'm glad I came back to Japan! (Laughs)

This place provides opportunities to people who have conviction and purpose.
®° There are probably many people who would like to conduct research at the CBRC. What type of people do you hope come to the CBRC?

As I've already mentioned, the CBRC is a rewarding place for researchers to conduct their research. It is easy to make connections with specialists in other fields, there are powerful computing resources here, and there is a lot of space. From a personnel and physical resource perspective, the CBRC is outstanding. You also have the freedom to continue doing the type of research you want to do.

Accordingly, researchers here are expected to be independent and self-reliant. You need the independence to be able to clearly decide upon a research theme you wish to tackle. You also need the self-reliance to make thorough progress with your theme of research. The CBRC provides opportunities to people who have the conviction to tackle their desired research theme and the purpose to see through with their research. I want to progress with my research working with people who possess these two attributes.

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